I'm going to try to start a weekly post on a movie from the 1930s, my favorite decade. Tonight I watched DODSWORTH which was on Turner Classic Movies. Made in 1926, it stars Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Mary Astor, and Paul Lukas, with a minor role by David Niven. Directed by William Wyler and based on the 1929 novel by Sinclair Lewis.
Sam Dodsworth is an automobile tycoon who is newly retired and anxious to start his new life by going on a cruise to Europe with his wife Fran. Sam is an enthusiastic, full of life American - the typical successful businessman stereotype. He's so excited to see England for the first time that he stands on deck and waits for the Bishop's Light beaming from land, heralding the arrival of England. But just wait, as a very different Sam will reveal himself during the second half of the movie. Fran, on the other hand, is seeing Europe as an opportunity to escape her stifling lifestyle as the wife of an aging tycoon and doesn't hesitate to start flirting with the first men that give her the opportunity. After a few weeks in Paris, it's apparent that things are falling apart very fast. Halfway through the movie, Fran stays in Europe and Sam goes home.
This is one of the most captivating movies I have seen in months. The story is realistic and I had a hard time finding a false note anywhere in the dialogue. Ruth Chatterton's beguiling charm and dazzling smile make her charming selfishness totally believable, and Walter Huston is a marvel to watch. This is one of Wyler's earlier directions, a few years before MRS. MINIVER and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, and decades before BEN-HUR. DODSWORTH should be on the Required Viewing list for every Wyler fan.
Here is the first ten minutes of DODSWORTH. Unfortunately the entire screen may not be viewable in my blog; if it isn't, you can go here to watch it on YouTube (and see the rest of the movie too).